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Effectiveness of state, territory and Commonwealth government policies on regional and remote Indigenous communities

CHAIR (Senator Scullion) —The Select Committee on Regional and Remote Indigenous Communities is holding this meeting as part of its inquiry into regional and remote Indigenous communities. On behalf of this committee I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and pay our respect to the elders, past and present.

Before the committee begins I want to make it clear to all participants that the meeting is being recorded. Transcripts of the recorded meeting will be produced and the transcript may be made public. Participants recorded at and transcribed from this meeting are protected by parliamentary privilege. Any act that disadvantages you as a result of the evidence given to this committee is treated as a breach of privilege. However, I also remind you that giving false or misleading evidence to the committee may constitute a contempt of the Senate. Information on parliamentary privilege and the protection of witnesses and evidence has previously been provided to you. If you would like to make an opening statement I will then pass over to the committee members for questions.

Ms Sovenyhazi —Good morning. Firstly I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today and pay my respects to the elders, both past and present. I would also like to pay my respects to the traditional owners of the four communities in which we operate on a daily basis, Aurukun, Coen, Hope Vale and Mossman Gorge. I bring with me greetings from the local commissioners of our four communities and from Commissioner Glasgow. He also asked me to pass on his apologies for not being able to attend in person. He is currently sitting in Aurukun on circuit.

We have been operating for a period of 21 months, a little over a year and a half. It has been a very interesting and challenging year and a half for the commission. We are the first of our kind in the world; we certainly know of nothing that has operated which is of our kind. Probably the most rewarding aspect of what we do is work with the community members on the ground and with our local commissioners, who are local elders or respected people who have been appointed by the Governor in Council of the state of Queensland. Those commissioners are critical to the success of the commission and they are the people who make the work that we do very valuable and very rewarding.

CHAIR —One of the areas that the committee has been very concerned with is the very high level of nonattendance throughout the age groups throughout the school year. I notice one of the responsibilities of the Family Responsibilities Commission is a reporting system that comes from the schools. After a period of, I think, three days, any notification within that area is a compulsory notification to you. First of all could you tell me about the levels of compliance from the school. That is something else the schools have to do, and they are all pretty stressed. How are they coping with that and what actually happens? What is the trickle of response from that? What are the levels and tiers of reaction?

Ms Sovenyhazi —Under the act we have four notifying agencies, and one of those is the schools in the four communities. The way it works is that when a child has failed to attend school for either three full or part days of a school term we are notified by the school. Effectively what we get is a spreadsheet of data from the department of education that advises us of the children who have not attended school in that time frame.

We have had some fairly pleasing results from the commencement of our time, but the FRC certainly does not take credit for that. That is definitely in the hands of the department of education and the school attendance case managers, who work with the children and the families. To give you some very broad statistics, we had a starting point for the attendance rate in Aurukun of 37.9 per cent at the end of term 2 2008, and to the end of 31 December 2009 it was sitting at 61.6 per cent. So there has been an increase of 23.7 per cent in Aurukun, which is extremely pleasing. Regarding the other schools, Hope Vale and Coen have always had very good attendance. We need to remember that Coen is a very, very small school of only 47 students, so where one or two students, or even four or five students, might be away for a particular term and not meeting the obligations the reductions in the statistics might be alarming but, if you take into consideration the size of the school, it is not actually as bad as it might seem. Hope Vale, for argument’s sake, had a starting point of 87.6 per cent in 2008 and is currently sitting at 84.1 per cent, so there has been a slight reduction of 3.5 per cent. Mossman Gorge had a starting point of 60.9 per cent and is currently sitting at 79.5 per cent, which is again a very pleasing increase. Coen, which is currently sitting at 90.4 per cent, had a starting point of 96.8 per cent. Again there has been a slight reduction, but given the small size of the school I do not think it is as alarming as it sounds.

Effectively what happens is that we get the school attendance notice for the children. We certainly did not start this way but we have ended up, given experience and time, taking the school attendance notifications to the communities and sitting down and meeting with our local commissioners, who advise us, based on their local knowledge of the families and the schools, as to how significant the issues with a particular child or a particular family are. In addition to that, we work with the school and the attendance case managers, who also give us local intelligence on the school.

The critical part of the school attendance is the work that the attendance case managers do. They will sit in the school in the morning, find out what children have not attended school, based on the roll, and then immediately go to the houses of those families and either get the children to school or find out why the children have not attended school. An enormous amount of work happens on the ground every single day to try and get these children to school. As I mentioned earlier, I think the increases to date are very, very pleasing. There is still quite a long way to go but I think, given the time that we have had, that the school, the attendance case managers and the commission should be fairly proud of where we have gotten to so far.

CHAIR —That 30 per cent increase clearly comes from a demographic that quite possibly has not been attending for perhaps a number of years. So a 30 per cent increase in those sorts of students is going to put a huge weight on the education system. If they go straight into other classes and they have not been to school for a couple of years, they will be disruptive, not because of bad behaviour but simply because they are not as academically skilled. Are you working with the department of education to ensure that gap in funding or human resources is filled? Is there any special curriculum development? What is happening in that area, or are you just getting them to school?

Ms Sovenyhazi —I guess our mandate under that act is to get the children to school and to change the behaviour of parents so that they do get their children to school. We certainly do work closely with the education department. The content of our conferences are privileged and confidential. We seek permission from the parents to discuss any particular concerns that they have with the principal or the teachers of the school. Issues of behaviour, bullying and teasing are reasons that come up quite often. As you mentioned, you sometimes have children who have not been to school regularly or every day for quite significant periods of time. It is a huge challenge for the education system to then provide the support that the schools need to have these children back in school. As I mentioned though, our mandate is to get them to school and then talk to the education department about what our experiences are in dealing with the families. Then it is for the education department to put the resources into the schools. We do not have a direct link or a direct mandate to do that, but we certainly explain to the education department, where we can, what issues are being highlighted in the conferences.

CHAIR —You talked about the percentages and the increase. On the process, you have now had several breaches. What actually happens next?

Ms Sovenyhazi —Where the commissioners decide in conjunction with the school principal and the attendance case managers that this family needs some form of intervention, we will issue a notice to attend conference to the family. It can be just to the parents—providing that they are welfare recipients and they live in the community of course, because that is our jurisdiction—but given the complexity of the family arrangements in the communities we work in, you may have two or three families living in the one house. If we have two separate lots of parents, we will bring the whole lot in together. If we receive a school attendance notice for a child of one family and a child of another family but they are living together, we will bring both sets of parents in. Quite often, some of what we hear back, particularly from the fathers, is that the mother or the carer of the child is receiving the family payments for the child so they do not believe it is their responsibility to get the children to school. Of course, we do not agree with that and we will bring that person in and explain the fact that, if they are a carer of the child or a biological parent of the child, they have a responsibility whether they are getting the payments or not. So we bring in whoever the appropriate people are—parents, carers and other people living in the house.

The commissioners are quite firm and frank with the attendees at the conferences and they explain to them that for the children to have any sort of future life they need to get the education and, if they do not get the children to school, they are not going to get the education. In Aurukun in particular, most of our conferences are held in Wik, which is of huge benefit to the community members because most of them do not have English as a first language. The commissioners will converse with them in Wik and then translate for Commissioner Glasgow and a decision will be made. Effectively they ask the parents: ‘Why is it that you are not getting your children to school? Is there a valid reason? Is there not a valid reason?’ Some of the reasons we might hear are that in Aurukun in particular they might live several kilometres from the school and, particularly in the wet season, it is difficult to get a child to school if they are having to walk that far. That might be one of the reasons. The commissioners will turn around and explain that: ‘It might seem like a valid reason but it is not good enough and you  need to get your children to school. The options that you have are to work very closely with the attendance case manager and they will help you through all the challenges that you have. If you fail to comply with what you are asking you to do, we will conditionally income manage your welfare payments.’ We use welfare quarantining as a last resort. We certainly do not use it as a first line of attack.

Most of the parents will give their best and try. Some of the parents we see come back time and time again and it is just a matter of constantly working with them and finding out what the issues are that are preventing the children from going to school. We might find out that the parents have a drug or alcohol issue or someone else in the house does, so it might mean a referral for that particular person off to the Wellbeing Centre to deal with those issues because it is affecting the ability of the parents to get the child to school. We make referrals to whatever services seem appropriate in the circumstances. We will try and get the parent to enter into an agreement and, if they agree to do those things that the commissioners have said, that is great and we will get them to sign an agreement. If they do not, the commissioners may make an order and then they will institute a decision. From there we monitor the parents’ compliance with the case plan over the 12-month period. We will often bring them back in for a review where we might be receiving information back from the community support services saying that they are not complying or they are not attending. We will either ask them to show cause if it seems to be a serious breach or alternatively, if it just seems like they need just a little bit more assistance or a little bit more reassurance, then we will just bring them back in for a case review.

Senator CROSSIN —Thanks for your evidence and for being here today, Ms Sovenyhazi. My question to you is: what is the obligation on the education department to interact with what the family commission is doing? For example, with the incident you gave us about people living a couple of kilometres away, is there a bus supplied by the school that someone can then use to drive out and pick those kids up?

Ms Sovenyhazi —No. This is where it gets a little bit tricky I guess. The broader welfare reform trial is based on people meeting their personal responsibilities and their obligations. It could be argued that it is parents’ responsibility regardless to get their child to school. It could also be argued that, given the complexity and the geographics of the particular community, perhaps it should be a community issue to have a bus. In Aurukun at one point in time, the Community Justice Group had a bus operating and then for some reason, which I am not quite sure of, it stopped operating quite some time ago now. So whether it is the council’s responsibility to then do that—

Senator CROSSIN —Why is it not? I taught in a remote community school for five years and the mutual obligation was also on the education department. That is just one example. Another example is that a couple of weeks ago I was out bush in the Territory and the principal there had a store of new shoes and thongs which the education department and he have supplied. Quite often in the morning he goes around, knocks on the door and asks: ‘Where is Johnny? He is not at school.’ It turns out he cannot come to school today because he does not have any shoes or he does not have a clean T-shirt. So the school, or in that instance the principal, says, ‘Jump in the car; I have got some shoes for you.’ The mutual obligation also comes from the education department. Is that not the way this is structured?

Ms Sovenyhazi —Not necessarily, or certainly not in the ideals of the welfare reform. We have had this conversation with the education department around the possibility of providing a bus. In Hope Vale there is a bus operating that goes from Hope Vale into Cooktown school. That is operated by the justice group and the council. So they have taken on that responsibility. In regard to Aurukun, our particular concern is of course the wet season. If children come to school and they are wet because they have walked, they are sent home because they cannot sit in an air conditioned classroom wet all day.

Senator CROSSIN —So why doesn’t the school have a supply of second-hand clothes that they can give the kids to change into?

Ms Sovenyhazi —I cannot answer that. I guess it is potentially a matter of resourcing. In saying that, you have got a number of teachers in those schools who are extremely committed to the children and providing the education. I guess the question is to what extent are they expected to go or need to go to ensure that the kids get to school. That is something that I cannot answer. I do believe that many years ago the school in Aurukun did operate a bus. I understand that it came down to having to employ a bus driver and budgetary issues effectively.

Senator CROSSIN —So does each school you interact with have an Aboriginal community liaison officer or an Aboriginal attendance officer employed by the education department to work with you?

Ms Sovenyhazi —No, not that I am aware of. We do have in place attendance case managers. They are employed by the Cape York Partnerships as part of the broader welfare reform trial.

Senator CROSSIN —So what is the obligation of the department of education in this commission and its objectives?

Ms Sovenyhazi —Their obligation is to report to us where children are not attending school. Certainly under the provisions of our act their mandate is simply to report.

Senator CROSSIN —That is all they have to do? So they do not have to supply support staff for you or provide alternative or different resources for you to work with?

Ms Sovenyhazi —No.

Senator CROSSIN —Does each school have a school council operating?

Ms Sovenyhazi —A school council?

Senator CROSSIN —Like a parent and friends association or school council?

Ms Sovenyhazi —Each has had them operating at some point in time. Cooktown for argument’s sake does have one. The issue they have is getting parents to continually attend. It is not something that has operated well in the past.

Senator CROSSIN —Are you telling us there is no proactive methods of actually getting parents to engage with the school?

Ms Sovenyhazi —They try. They certainly do try, but I guess this is where it comes back to the parental responsibility of being engaged in their children’s education and having that relationship with the schools. That is where it falls down. In Mossman Gorge for argument’s sake the children go to the Mossman town state school, which has a very active P&C. It seems to be easier for the parents to be involved. I do not know why that is, but it seems to be easier and it is fairly active.

Senator CROSSIN —Is there anybody in Queensland looking at why the parental involvement in that school is working and is successful? I am assuming the attendance of children at that school is high as a result of that.

Ms Sovenyhazi —Yes. Not that I am aware of. I am not sure if Education are looking at that. The commission are not specifically looking at that. That is outside our mandate. I could not tell you if Education are looking at that.

Senator CROSSIN —I always subscribe to this theory. In Indigenous health we have an extensive program educating parents about the benefit of health outcomes and it is a continuous education program. Is there any such program happening in the education sector in the schools you work with? For example, do parents get invited into the classrooms to understand how children read, why they go to school 200 days a year or any of those sorts of things?

Ms Sovenyhazi —They do, certainly as part of our work with the particular families. If a family brings up bullying, teasing or behavioural problems as an issue, we will work with the school and seek permission for the parent to go into the classroom and sit with their child. That seems to have had benefit with the children behaving themselves a little more and also the parents getting an understanding of how the school environment within the classroom works. I understand there are a significant number of teacher aides who are local Indigenous community members who have been taken through the learning process to become teacher aides. That helps particularly in Aurukun where most of the children speak Wik yet are taught in English.

Senator CROSSIN —Is Aurukun a bilingual school?

Ms Sovenyhazi —No. It is taught in English, and that is a very big challenge.

Senator CROSSIN —Who actually employs the Family Responsibilities Commission? Is it set up as a statutory body in its own right?

Ms Sovenyhazi —We are an independent statutory authority. We are under the umbrella of Minister Desley Boyle under the Department of Communities, although we are an independent statutory authority.

Senator CROSSIN —Do you have monthly meetings with education department representatives, for example?

Ms Sovenyhazi —Yes. For the broader Cape York welfare reform we have an education steering committee that discusses all the issues that have been highlighted by us, the teachers or whomever it might be. I also meet at my level with the regional director of the department of education. We also have a family responsibilities board which is made up of Dr Harmer, the secretary of FaHCSIA; Ken Smith, the Director-General of the Queensland Department of the Premier and Cabinet; and Noel Pearson. That board meets quarterly. We write a quarterly report for them highlighting all the issues.

Senator CROSSIN —Is Centrelink involved in monthly meetings?

Ms Sovenyhazi —At our level when we are talking about our specific income managed clients. Again at the Cairns regional level we meet regularly to talk about how those particular clients are going and what life might be for them after the income management order itself expires, which usually goes for 12 months. And of course we have ad hoc meetings as we need.

Senator CROSSIN —When you raise in meetings with the education department that you believe it would be really useful if a bus were funded to get the kids to school, what is the response you get?

Ms Sovenyhazi —To date the response has been that it is not within their budgetary allowances to do that. They would have to engage a bus driver which then has blue card issues, workplace health and safety issues and everything else that goes with that. That is the response we have received.

Senator CROSSIN —That is a reason not to do it; not a reason to do it though, isn’t it, if you want to improve the attendance of children at school? Where families have been income managed is the attendance improving or has it not made a difference?

Ms Sovenyhazi —We have not done any studies directly relating to income managed parents and their children attending school. We have not drilled down that far as yet. Certainly with our income managed clients, regardless of what has actually brought them to the commission in the first place—it could be any one of the four notification types—there seems to be a general acceptance of the income management regime. We currently have 98 people on income management and we have made a total of 206 orders up until 31 December. Some of those 98 people currently on orders are asking to remain on income management once their 12-month order ceases to exist. We do not actually think that is a good thing. The commission’s attitude to that is that within that 12-month time frame people should be learning through the family income management regime as well as with Centrelink’s assistance how to manage their funds better.

Because people are seeing the benefit of income management in the sense that they have got savings, they have bought whitegoods and household furniture, the kids have clothes and there is food in the house as they need it, people are getting comfortable with it. It is good in the sense that it is working to the degree that people are saving money and getting clothes for their kids and food but the commission in general does not think it is valuable for people to constantly stay on income management, because they are not learning.

Senator CROSSIN —You do not have any statistics that could tell us that the attendance at school of children of parents who have been income managed has improved during that time?

Ms Sovenyhazi —Not specifically, no.

Senator CROSSIN —So you do not exactly know if there is a direct positive outcome between the two?

Ms Sovenyhazi —We could do it. It is just not something that we have done.

Senator ADAMS —I find it very strange to think that you have that program going—and income management obviously is a big part of your area—and there is no evaluation or follow-up of that issue. You are trying to get kids to school and you are doing all of the briefings, consultation and everything to achieve something yet you are not taking any statistics. Surely your local area people who are working there must be able to feed back to you something that you could use as a benchmark at least.

Ms Sovenyhazi —There are two reasons. One is we are being independently evaluated by KPMG. We expect the first implementation review to be made public at the end of May, so in a month’s time. Secondly, because of the intensity of what we do we have not had time to step back and look at the statistics. We have sat nearly 1,700 conferences to date in a period of 18 months. We are in the communities from Tuesday to Thursday every single week and visiting the communities fortnightly except for Coen, where we sit monthly. It is not that we do not have the statistics—we do have the statistics; we just have not drilled down that far to see whether the attendance of this specific cohort of children has increased. FaHCSIA have done a number of reviews of our files and statistics as well. I am sure they have the information. It is just not something we have specifically concentrated on at this point in time because we are being independently evaluated.

Senator ADAMS —Are KMPG looking at this issue? Surely they are, at least as far as evaluation. Then you would have to supply those statistics to them.

Ms Sovenyhazi —We have supplied them with all the statistics that they have asked for. They have come in to have a look at our files and drilled down on particular files. It is not a specific stat where we say the attendance of Child A at this point in time was 60 per cent and now is 90 per cent. We have not actually done that. We have provided all the statistics that were requested.

CHAIR —The parties who are doing the auditing will provide that?

Ms Sovenyhazi —Yes.

Senator Adams —Another question on your voluntary income management: are you getting many people wanting to come onto that scheme?

Ms Sovenyhazi —We have a lot of inquiries. To date we have about six people who have requested voluntary income management. We most recently had an issue that has been resolved by the Commonwealth, in which people on aged and carers pensions are probably the most at risk due to what is commonly called ‘humbugging’ by the bureaucrats. Indigenous people do not like the word ‘humbugging’, so we try as best we can not to use it, but effectively it is where a family member or somebody else puts upon them to provide money. Some of that is a cultural obligation for the family members to do that. In saying that, it is taking the money away from that particular person. Our main concern is elderly people who are living in homes where children, grandchildren or whatever come in to try to get their money from them, so we worked with the Commonwealth—FaHCSIA in particular—and the amendments to the Social Security Administration Act will receive royal assent some time in April. That will allow voluntary or even conditional income management of aged and carers pensions. Previously, the Commonwealth government brought across the regime that works in Western Australia. That has been applied to Queensland until such time as the legislation receives royal assent in April.

We worked quite closely with the Commonwealth on that. We have also worked very closely with Centrelink. Centrelink now wants, once the legislation is changed, to see aged care homes and those sorts of places to see whether people are interested in the voluntary income management. Once the legislation is amended, if people come in to us we can put them on a voluntary agreement, but until such time as that we cannot. We have to refer them off to Centrelink. When that happens we will certainly do that. That is our biggest concern.

Some people are a little bit worried about it in the sense that they do not want their family members to know that they have voluntarily sought their income to be managed. That being the case, we advise our clients or people interested, ‘If you wish to say that the commission has made this order, you can say that.’ That will protect them from any sort of retaliation from their own family members. In saying that, we probably have quit small numbers at the moment—around six or seven people—on voluntary income management.

Senator SIEWERT —A couple of weeks ago I was at the ACOS conference and was there when the commission reported. I found the information that was presented really useful and fascinating. One of the things that struck me was the effort that goes into case management that how income management is the last resort. There is an awful lot of effort that goes into case management: talking to people, giving them options et cetera. The thing there is that it is resource intensive. Could you tell us what the funding base of the commission is? Do you have an estimate of the funding for each case that you deal with?

Ms Sovenyhazi —We currently have on board a principle case manager as well as a position that we call a business support officer. Those two people are the two who do specifically the direct case management with the community support services. From the services that we refer we get monthly progress reports. That is very challenging in that that in itself is a huge resource for the community support service to undertake, so we have encountered challenges in that respect. We have worked constantly with the service providers, as you know from that conference.

So we have the two particular positions. We have just recently received approval for funding for another business support officer. We have not commenced yet, but what we intend to do is allocate two communities to each of those business support officers. They will spend quite a significant amount of time in the communities, working specifically with the clients. The challenge that we have is that a community support service may say to us that the client has failed to attend or that they are not engaging. Not so much now but earlier on we would then bring the client back in and say: ‘You’re not attending. We have to show cause. We do not want to income manage you, but why is it that you’re not engaging or not complying?’ The client might have turned around and said, ‘I showed up on this particular day and the doors were closed, and then I came back the next day and they told me that they had too many clients today and to come back tomorrow.’ Human nature being what it is, people eventually stop coming. That was a significant issue for us, so we will now have these two particular people and the case manager as well spending significant amounts of time in the communities, working with both the clients and the community support services.

We receive a lot of our local intelligence from the local commissioners. Obviously, the advice they give us is invaluable, but we also speak directly to the schools, to the councillors, and to the local Indigenous workers as well to see what their opinions of the people are. Under our act we are allowed to use hearsay evidence as opposed to strict evidence. We collate all that together, and it is hugely resourceful. As I said, at the moment I have to full-time staff. I will have three. I also have two support administrative staff to back up the work that they need to do.

Senator SIEWERT —And what is the funding for the commission?

Ms Sovenyhazi —It is $12.9 million over the 3½ years.

Senator SIEWERT —What is the population base that you cover? How many people have you worked with to date?

Ms Sovenyhazi —The population base is approximately 3,000 across the four communities. We currently have a caseload of 517 clients.

Senator SIEWERT —Of those, 98 are income managed?

Ms Sovenyhazi —Yes. Some of those case managed clients might be on case plans but be currently incarcerated, so while we are not working directly with that person, because they are in prison, we still have to maintain the case management, check with the prisons, deal with them when they come out and work with the police because they will meet them at the airport. You know what I mean. Regardless of whether the person is in the community, out of the community or in prison, it still takes the same level of case management.

Senator SIEWERT —You said you were adding more people to the resource base. In other words, to be successful—and we are still not sure of education outcomes and things—the point is that it takes a lot of resources to get the positive outcomes.

Ms Sovenyhazi —Yes, it does. I have 15 staff. We have a local coordinator based in each of the four communities and I am about to engage three administrative staff—one each in Aurukun, Hope Vale and Coen—to support those local coordinators. My Coen local coordinator position is vacant at the moment because staff have moved on to other things. Operating the offices remotely is hugely challenging in itself. It was in our mindset that by this stage we would have started to see a drop in the notifications that we received from the trigger agencies. That has not happened as of yet. Our biggest concern is that the 3 ½ years that we have to operate is certainly not long enough to see any real change in these communities. We have a lot of positives: talking to particular clients on the ground, you can see how their lives have changed. Most of that is qualitative; it is very difficult to put a statistic on that. But we still have a hell of a long way to go, and we now only have a little over a year and a half to operate. Our concern is that we are not going to meet the objectives of the act by 1 January.

Senator SIEWERT —You have said you work closely with the education department and the aim is to get kids into school, but obviously part of that is giving parenting support. In WA we have family support projects that are aimed at helping parents. Are you getting access to additional resources from other services for those sorts of support services as well

Ms Sovenyhazi —Yes. In Aurukun specifically, there is a parenting program already underway and we have used that with relation to failure-to-thrive babies, the families of which we have been working with child safety in the clinics. At the beginning of this year or late last year, we had six babies who were quite critical, so we worked very closely with health, the parenting program and child safety services on that. In the other three communities they are due to commence the parenting programs—the PPP program—on 1 May. So obviously once that program starts operating we will start referring parents. That seems to be one of the critical issues to us: parents not only getting the kids to schools but being taught the—

Senator SIEWERT —All the stuff that goes with it.

Ms Sovenyhazi —Yes.

Senator SIEWERT —I will finish now; I am getting the eye. It sounds as if you are only just starting to get some of those services on board.

Ms Sovenyhazi —Yes, correct.

Senator SIEWERT —That also relates to the fact that you only have 18 months.

Ms Sovenyhazi —It is the time factor.

Senator SIEWERT —Thank you.

Senator FURNER —Do you face the issue, then, of getting people off family income management beyond the 12 months? What sorts of initiatives or resources are you providing those families with in educating them about means of budgeting and the sorts of things to make sure they are able to do that?

Ms Sovenyhazi —What we normally do when we put them on a conditional income management order is to also make a referral to the Family Income Management services. The intent there is that the person is income managed for the 12-month period but within that 12 months they work with FIM—Family Income Management—to learn budgeting skills, to put a budget together. FIM actually help them with Centrelink—Centrepay arrangements and all those sorts of things—and they teach them how to do internet banking and how to budget for next week’s food, clothing and all that sort of stuff. That is what we do: we refer them to Family Income Management. It is an expectation of ours that they will comply with that referral and then learn how to budget. As I have said, what we are finding is that people are very comfortable on the conditional income management and not necessarily wanting to come off it.

Senator FURNER —Out of the four communities that you cover, how many are dry or are they all dry?

Ms Sovenyhazi —Aurukun is the only dry community at the moment. It is not a dry community per se, it is simply that the Three Rivers Tavern shut down in November 2008. At that point in time you were only able to consume alcohol within the confines of that particular tavern. Since the changes to the licensing arrangements and since the tavern has been shut down the community is effectively dry.

Coen is not a dry community. In fact it has a hotel, because it is a town; it is not a discrete Indigenous community. Both Mossman Gorge and Hope Vale have alcohol management plans in place.

CHAIR —Thank you very much. There may be further questions from the committee and they will be provided to you through the secretariat on notice. If there are vital pieces of information you think you have omitted which you have an opportunity to provide to us we would be delighted to receive them through the secretariat. Thank you very much for your evidence today.

Ms Sovenyhazi —I would just like to tell you: I did provide our annual report, our latest quarterly report as well as a report with the updated statistics. So if any questions come out of that please feel free to contact me.

CHAIR —We only received them this morning, so I suspect there will be.

Ms Sovenyhazi —I will give you time to read them.

[9.13 am]